READING- When the Phillies dealt star hurler Cole Hamels to Texas last summer a group of very promising players came back in return. With some standout names among those coming to the Phils, it was difficult to conclude who would be the prized get on that list. Catcher Jorge Alfaro, injured at the time of the deal, could emerge as that gem this year as a member of the Double-A Reading Fightins.
Signed as an amateur free agent out of Colombia in 2010 at the age of 16, Alfaro had played third base and shortstop before turning pro. According the the talented youngster, the Rangers saw him throw from home plate to second base and signed him to become a catcher.
During spring training, Alfaro got to bond with another foreign backstop who started as an infielder. That player is Carlos Ruiz, who played second base as an amateur.
“It’s nice to see someone that was an infielder and made it to the big leagues as a catcher for a lot of years,” Alfaro stated. “I take that like an example and try to make it.”
Ruiz, now in the latter portion of his playing days, has left a big impression on the man who could eventually succeed him as the Phils’ starting catcher.
“I was with him almost all the time, hitting, doing defense and talking about everything like that. I mean, I’m the kind of guy that I like to ask a lot (of questions) and I just tried to pick something from his brain. He’s got a lot of years in the big leagues and I’m just trying to learn a lot from him.
“He’s a really nice person. He treats everybody really good. He shows them– you can see that he’s a leader. He’s a good mentor. He’s a good guy to learn from,” Alfaro said.
The Phillies are a bit deep at the catcher position at the upper levels with another excellent prospect Andrew Knapp, last year’s Paul Owens Award winner, on the rise and with Cameron Rupp already contributing at the big league level. Despite that positional congestion, Alfaro doesn’t want to consider a positional switch, as he enjoys catching too much.
“I played first base two years ago in low-A, but I don’t really like it,” Alfaro explained. “I just like to be in the game, pitch by pitch, as a catcher.”
His bat is the part of his game that could get Alfaro to the majors with some quickness. He’s touted as having big time power potential. Last season with Double-A Frisco, the six-foot-two 225-pounder batted .253 with 15 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 21 RBI in 49 games. A year before that, he split time with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Frisco, tallying a .261 average with 26 doubles, five triples, 17 homers and 87 RBI in 121 games.
Having Reading’s hitter friendly FirstEnergy Stadium as his home park this season should help Alfaro to impress with his offense.
Alfaro’s manager, former catcher Dusty Wathan, likes what he sees in the talented prospect and knows what he’ll need to do to continue climbing the developmental ladder.
“He’s a smart, intelligent guy,” Wathan stated. “He has a tremendous arm. There are things that we need to clean up with his stance and we started in spring, but sometimes he reverts back to his old ways a little bit, but once he gets his balance, his arm strength’s there and we’ve just got to get him out there catching. He missed almost the whole year last year.”
At the time of the trade last season, Alfaro was on the disabled list, recovering from ankle surgery. He returned to action late in the regular season, playing in a couple games in the rookie level Gulf Coast League while rehabbing before being sidelined with a hamstring issue in the Florida Instructional League.
After his difficult 2015 season, there’s no question what the 22-year-old’s goals are for this year.
“I mean, to stay healthy…all year long. Stay healthy and keep playing how I play. Give 100-percent all the time.”